Three young siblings died alongside their grandmother in Texas in a fire the family had reportedly lit in the fireplace to keep warm amid a prolonged power outage due to an unusual spell of deep freeze in the state.
Olivia, Edison and Colette Nguyen and their grandmother Le Loan, died in the wee hours on Tuesday last week at their Sugar Land home in a fatal blaze that is suspected to have started from the fireplace.
“Obviously they were trying to stay warm,” Doug Adolph, a spokesperson for Sugar Land city was quoted as saying by the Houston Chronicle. “We can’t say that’s what the cause was, we just think we know they were using a fireplace.”
Firefighters were called around 2 am on 16 February to tackle the blaze. Only Jackie Nguyen, the mother of the three children, and her friend Mai Bui made it out of the house alive and were taken to the hospital with extensive burns. Her children, Olivia, 11, Edison, 8, and Colette, 5, and their grandmother Ms Loan, 75 were found dead inside the house, said Mr Adolph.
“[I] tucked my kids into bed and really the next thing I know I’m in the hospital,” Ms Nguyen told CNN. “A few hours later the fireman and [a] police officer came and said that no one else made it.”
While Ms Nguyen does not remember much from the night, Mr Adolph told US media that she had to be restrained by first responders from going back into the house to try and save her children.
“I was just standing there screaming and screaming and screaming their names hoping they would come out of their rooms and basically jump over so that we could get out,” she was quoted as saying by CNN. “I just remember feeling like it was so dark and I can still kind of hear everything crackling around me.”
Nathan Nguyen, the children’s father who had separated from his wife, was said to be in shock and declined comment to news outlets, reported theWashington Post.
Speaking on his behalf, Mr Nguyen’s sister Vanessa Kon told the Post that he initially thought it was a bad joke.
She also blamed the city administration for the lapses during the outage. Ms Kon told the Daily Beast that the city should have been prepared for it. “Why was the power off? If the power wasn’t off, this wouldn’t have happened,” she was quoted as saying.
The Texas house blaze is among the many such incidents that have unfolded across the state. Last Friday, a Hilton Garden Inn near Fort Hood in Killeen went up in flames as the building’s sprinkler systems failed to work due to frozen pipes. There were no reported casualties in the hotel that was working at full capacity.